The Best of Times, the Worst of Times

presentation by President Marc Stanakis at Faith That Works 2019 Breakfast

The Problem

“These are the best of times…and these are the worst of times.”

How many of you remember that opening line in a Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens?

That certainly describes the current state of our world, on so many different levels. Did you see the article in the Wall Street Journal several weeks ago? This is the hottest labor market in 50 years, and Orlando is leading the charge. The Department of Labor reported last October that for the first time, there were more job openings than candidates to fill them.

These are the best of times…

And at the same time, the United Way of Florida reports that 47% of households in Orange County don’t make enough money to pay the bills – over 220,000 FAMILIES. And if that wasn’t bad enough, about 2/3 of the families in this situation are qualified for public assistance. They are working and need a handout to close the gap.

These are the worst of times…

Addressing the Problem

You might be asking yourselves why are so many people stuck in low paying jobs and struggling to survive? What we have learned over the last 20 years is that the zip code you were born in has a lot to do with it. Or maybe life happened, and you can’t do the same work anymore or you’ve lost everything. In either case, you start to believe the lies about your situation and hope for anything better is beyond your reach.

It’s a soft skills problem.

The other challenge is not having a helpful network of relationships. When you are struggling to survive, you need someone outside of your situation who can help you think through the challenges and cheer you on. And despite all the great technology we have access to, the best way to find a job is from someone you know who recommends you to an employer. Relationships…some things never change.

We have also learned that temporary assistance doesn’t solve the problem. God made us all with unique gifts and abilities that can be used to produce income, and when we do that, we find fulfillment in our purpose. WORK IS THE MOST STRATEGIC SOLUTION TO THE PROBLEM.  

The Solution

That’s why our LifeWorks training is transforming our community, one life at a time, like Javier’s. Our church and business partners are mobilizing teams of volunteers to offer an integrated solution that focuses on soft-skills development and career planning, along with connections to helpful relationships through our network of partners.

Local pastors teach the Life portion of the training using a biblically-based curriculum to change negative attitudes and beliefs. Topics include how to build healthy relationships with your boss and co-workers, conflict resolution, and showing up on time. HR professionals from our network of employers and the GOSHRM chapter facilitate the career planning components which include a career assessment, interviewing skills and a resume. Armed with a written career plan, we connect the participants to our network of partners so they can get a job or go back to school for more training, with the help of Career Advisors from CareerSource Central Florida.

The Opportunity

In 1999, we got our start in the Workforce 2020 project at the Orlando Chamber. The name of the project was a reference to research done by the Hudson Institute in which they predicted a massive worker shortage that peaks in the year 2020, when the greatest number of baby-boomers start retiring. When you link that issue with the booming economy, job creation at a fifty-year high, and the documented skills gap, we are sitting on the edge of an incredible window of opportunity to equip families in our community to leave poverty behind.

That’s why our board launched an expansion plan several years ago to scale our LifeWorks program from four to eight training sites in Orange County. Last month we added a new site in Winter Garden at Orange Technical College and will add three more sites in February 2020. The proposed new sites include the ACE Academy in Parramore, the John Bridges Community Center in Apopka, and the Orlando Union Rescue Mission.

Through our formal partnership with CareerSource, we will measure success by number of job placements and short-term training certifications in the targeted high growth industry sectors in Central Florida. Did you know that 1 out of 3 job vacancies require a training certificate? For instance, you can earn a certificate in advanced manufacturing at Valencia after 12 weeks of training and get placed in a full-time job with benefits at Lockheed Martin making $18 an hour – that’s a game changer. The same types of opportunities exist in healthcare, construction, hospitality and logistics.

Changing lives is hard work and it doesn’t happen overnight…or with a handout. It takes an investment of time, resources and relationships to alter the course of someone’s life. That’s why we have formed partnerships with churches, businesses, schools, social service and government agencies. No entity on their own can solve this problem, but together we can have collective impact for greater and sustainable outcomes.

Business Church Community Volunteer